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July 14, 2024

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Bay Area Ska
Tomato Head Records Presents...Bay Area Ska (Tomato Head Records)

By: Alex Steininger

You've checked out your local scene, now check out another thriving local scene...San Francisco. Tomato Head Records brings us "Bay Area Ska". Five bands, and twenty one songs give you a nice look at what is happening in San Francisco. From ska punk to traditional, you'll find it all here.

The CD starts out with four tracks from Blindspot (who just signed with Tomato Head Records...look for their 1st full length in early 1998.) "Clueless" is their first contribution. An up tempo third wave number, it sends your feet out on the dance floor. The horn lines are as energetic as they come, almost needing Ritalin to calm down. Occasional punk riffs are thrown in for a kick in the butt here and there. "Maude" is another third wave party favorite, illuminating tremendous amounts of energy through the loud brass section, and third wave ska beats that also draw on punk beats for aggression at times. The now defunct Janitors Against Apartheid also contributed four tracks to this compilation. Former members have now moved on to a new project by the name of The Adjustments. What better way to promote the future than to highlight your past? "Marriage" is a ska-punk track that you can skank to or slam dance too. It goes both ways with its rough vocals and punk edge, as well as skanking beats and overwhelming horn section. The drums have a heavy metal style to themselves, beating ferociously while the bass clamps the music together. "Sandy Buffaloe" is another ska-punk number that will make you skank if you want to with its infectious horn lines and upbeat guitar, but at the same time if you don't feel like moshing you can run and jump, and smash into things. Whatever you feel like doing, this song will provide the inspiration. Slow Gherkin also makes an appearance on this compilation. "The Slaughterhouse (mega-phone remix)" is a very catchy number that will get you bouncing and skanking, as well as singing along. The horns are bright, while the vocals are rough contrasting the music nicely. The guitar is very upbeat, keeping you skanking throughout the song. "Salsa III" is a Latin-ska number in the vain of third wave. Latin lyrics, as well as hot and spicy, Latin horn lines fly through this song. Even though you can't understand the words (or at least I can't), you still get a feeling what the song is about...FUN! As enchanting as it is, you don't even care its in a foreign language. If your not into the bouncy, up tempo speed of Slow Gherkin, or the ska-punk slam of the other two, than Monkey is your band. Traditional ska with heavy influences from The Skatalites, these guys know how to get down and make you sweat, while having a good time. "Cha Cha Ska" is an instrumental track that will let you release, dancing and swimming all over the dance floor. You'll lose control of your body, and your feet will take over. "Degobah" starts out with a soothing Hammond, before the juicy horns come in and show us what they've got. The drums tap nicely in the background, keeping everything tied together. The bass also plays an important role in keeping everything under control. But the horns are the obvious controller of the mood. Keeping everything bright and happy, they lead you through passion and spirit, and they take control of your soul and make you have a good time (as if you weren't going to anyhow!) With this music, its a wonder why anyone wouldn't be happy! "David N' Goliath" finish it up for Monkey. The spicy horns will once again warm your heart, and keep you coming back for more. Flat Planet is the last band on the compilation. "First Luv" picks up the pace, putting everything once again in overdrive. Third wave ska that keeps you dancing. The band keeps everything intense, riding a fine line between ska-punk and up tempo third wave ska. They even take a stab at comedy (I hope) with "I Want To Be Joey Lawerence". a poppy-ska number with rough vocals, to give the music an edge. As for the song, take a guess!

The only regrets I have about this compilation is the quality of the sound. Lo-fi, but still worthy of CD. Turn up the volume a few more notches, and you won't notice a thing. If you want some California ska, besides what's coming out of Orange County, pick up this CD and you'll most likely find something you enjoy. I'll give it a B+. A great compilation, containing great bands with a future.

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